Buying into the early access of H1Z1, we knew we were in for a rough ride involving server wipes, server crashes, epidemic cheating and the game occasionally being unplayable. Of course this is to be expected, we bought in as glorified gametesters although we expected it would payoff in the long run. What we didn’t expect is to be shafted with a subscription based service for a game mode while the game is still in early access, after we’ve paid £15/$19.99 to essentially playtest their alpha build.
The Battle Royale (BR) mode does exactly what it says on the tin, 150 players parachute into the world, 1 survives. Weapons are plentiful as are aforementioned players who are out for your blood and the titular zombies seem to have gone out for a smoke break as you tear about the map shooting at anything vaguely human, often getting gunned down by a guy you didn’t see. The explosive collars being replaced by toxic gas that releases as a form of time constraint and map control. It’s a fun game mode that’s proved pretty popular with the fan base. Sadly, Daybreak recently got the idea in their head to charge to play it through a subscription based model, which isn’t too uncommon among games with similar F2P models. What is uncommon and has led to a PR nightmare is when they decided to implement such a system in the middle of a paid alpha. That’s right, after paying to play an incomplete game, they had the stones to attempt to charge players monthly, to play one of the main sections of the game that isn’t even finished yet. Other games haven’t got away with this sort of underhanded practice in the past and those games were finished.
The H1Z1 subreddit is the core of community discussion about the game and has been the most vocal in their opposition to this move. Numerous threads with a lot of support have sprung up calling out the developers who seem to be bearing the brunt of the community outrage, which seems largely justified. In fact, the most upvoted thread of all time on the subreddit is calling for the boycott of paying for Battle Royale for early access supporters. Personally I’m in favour of this, especially after parting with £15 for H1Z1, I would expect something a little more than the shirt skin I’m likely to receive for my support. A series of personal attacks on Daybreak employees also occurred, which we don’t agree with, but as a barometer of how upset the fanbase is; I’d say the skies aren’t looking too clear for Daybreak. Such was the negative outcry that in a form of damage control, Daybreak’s president John Smedley came out yesterday and made a statement claiming that they won’t be charging for Battle Royale for now. However Smedley, stopped short of saying when they would begin charging or how early access supporters will fair with them in future.
Whilst we understand that not all the decisions about monetization come from the developers themselves and the tremendous pressure to make a game profitable when using the F2P model, alienating the community before you’ve even finished your game seems like a bad play in the long term. I hope Daybreak find a way to balance their need for financial gain with player expectations, because there is a lot of potential in the game. Daybreak might just be big enough to make it work, but they’re part of an immensely oversaturated genre and there are plenty of other games ready to jump in their place should they fail.